I did also consider “Five women and me” as a title, but felt this sounded rather like a first-person, adult update of an E Nesbit classic (a woman who very wisely did not assume her husband’s name for her writing: E Bland on the cover is never going to help sales). As both titles may suggest, yesterday I had a long lunch in town (by which I mean London) with some friends and provided the sole Y chromosome in a sea of Xs (well, 11 of them – is that enough for a sea? Perhaps merely a small bowl of poorly mixed alphabetti spaghetti?).
Despite the apparent belief of most TV executives, this grouping of the distaff did not precipitate Armageddon or the end of days (no sign of a trumpet or even a single horseman, though there was one horsewoman). Nor was my fragile masculinity crushed – though I did spend much of the afternoon wearing a rather fetching golden bangle on my right arm. Then again, even at the best of times, I’m really a very long way from the vanguard in the struggle to find a role for the masculine in the 21st century – even the generals are nearer the front than I.
I had an excellent time with wide ranging, if slightly frivolous, conversation enjoyed by all – and lunch did continue for somewhat over six hours (which I believe is a new personal best). The event was held at Brasserie Zédel (and later the adjacent Bar Américain) which lies in a substantial, art deco cavern ranged deep beneath the northern side of Piccadilly Circus. I would recommend the venue as the food was good, the décor pleasing and the service both good and unobtrusive. It also has rather fine facilities for the gentleman to relieve himself of surplus fluid – which, via the magic of smartphone photography and an absence of shame, we were able to establish were rather better than the equivalent facilities provided for the fairer sex (the soap dispensers were also rather fine when illuminated by flash!). They definitely rate in the top 10 of urinals I have ever used (not abused I would like to make clear, my use of gents has always been consensual).
In the interests of full disclosure in the context of my recommendation, I should perhaps mention that I managed to consume more champagne yesterday than in the whole of the current decade put together – so my critical faculties may have been slightly dulled. I am also considering a whole new photographic strand in this blog for particularly attractive or striking gents I have used – what do you think?
After four hours we were moved-on from our lunch table and gravitated to the bar for a post-prandial cocktail. I was drawn to the French Aperatif – largely because it contained orgeat which I know of through one of the finest sketches from A Bit of Fry and Laurie (sadly no hyssop or cherry for each of my blue, blue eyes). Subsequent enquiry to Bing (yes, the late Mr Crosby is my spirit guide – boom, boom! I sometimes wonder if this blog is just too good for you) indicate that this is a syrup made from almonds, sugar water and rose water. The cocktail also contained the rather mysterious ingredient “Byrrh”. This was not, as I first assumed, a gift for a baby Messiah delivered by a wise man with a cold (well, the Nativity was well before Tunes were invented) but a spirit made of red wine, mistelle (“almost” wine mixed with brandy) and quinine – so I should be good against malaria for a while. Discussion of Byrrh did lead to brief mention of matters seasonal, and for reasons I no longer quite recall, we were able to establish that if the second coming were to be in Kettering, all the basics of the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” would still be fine with the simple substitution of place names. Not sure if this will be an important part of the decision-making process, but its nice to know should Northamptonshire be so blessed.
All-in-all a quite excellent day, finished off with a comic play about Scott’s fatal quest for the South Pole at the Southwark Playhouse (another London fringe theatre ticked) – with a surprising amount of Norwegian (which did make me quite misty-eyed for BBC4 Scandi-drama). On my journey home I was entertained by an episode of QI XL stored on my laptop via the miracle of iPlayer (making the unmissable live up to its name, as long as it isn’t on the radio – grrr!). I think they may have discovered the optimal panel of guests: Victoria Coren-Mitchell, Sue Perkins and Reverend Richard Coles – and once again, having more than one woman in the room lead to hilarity rather than disaster. I really feel there must be a lesson (or nine) in here somewhere – if only I could see it.